This winter is a busy period for ISKCON’s publishing arm the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT), with three notable new books being released within a few months of each other.
First off the literary assembly line in time for ISKCON’s December book distribution marathon was VEDA: Secrets From The East. The first introductory book to Krishna consciousness for some time, it features a compilation of writings by ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada and his disciples on the most crucial questions of our existence.
What lies beyond death, and what would you do if you had only a few days left to live? Despite an abundance of comforts and conveniences, why do many still feel dissatisfied, empty, and lacking in purpose? Are day-to-day occurrences predestined, or is life an interplay of fate and free will?
Over 500 pages punctuated by 16 color plates, VEDA answers these questions and more, covering topics such as the soul, karma, reincarnation, and meditation. Intended for mass distribution, the BBT hopes it will awaken within readers the spiritual insights great teachers have spoken of for thousands of years.
When The Sun Shines
The BBT’s second major release this season, When the Sun Shines: The Dawn of Hare Krishna in Britain, is a long-awaited historical account of ISKCON’s beginnings and development in the UK. It finally appeared in December 2009, for the 40th anniversary of the Radha-Krishna Temple in London.
Its story begins in San Francisco, where the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, on a one-man mission from India, gathers young people around him and teaches them about Krishna. He sends six of his young American disciples to leave for London, now the center of the 1960s music and pop culture. There they gain national attention by chanting Hare Krishna in public and befriending the Beatles. Prabhupada encourages them and finally in 1969 he arrives in England to solidify his movement there. He is hosted by John Lennon at Tittenhurst Park, where he personally mentors George Harrison.
Exciting days follow for Prabhupada and his dedicated band of young followers—their recording on the Apple label makes “Top of the Pops”; they open Britain’s first Hare Krishna temple in Bloomsbury, London; and, with George’s backing, they establish Bhaktivedanta Manor, a major temple in the countryside of Hertfordshire.
After also taking us through the development of ISKCON in Scotland and Wales, When The Sun Shines culminates in a touching account of Srila Prabhupada’s last visit to London in 1977, before he returned to Vrindavana, India for his final days.
Author Ranchor Prime, himself one of the early members of the British Hare Krishna community, writes with feeling and sensitivity. His carefully researched account weaves together the personal experiences of more than seventy of those who were there, bringing to life this extraordinary story.
Distinguished reviewers found the book a touching and personal account of innocence and spiritual adventure, when visions of transforming the world fired an entire generation.
“I can’t remember when I saw my first chanting, dancing Hare Krishnas,” says Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy of Religion, Education, and Culture. “They were simply there in the late ’60s and early ’70s, like the pied pipers of the alternative worlds, drawing us away from what we thought we knew. Ranchor Prime tells how those who danced and thought and developed made this country a different and better place.”
Julius Lipner, Professor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion at Cambridge University, adds: “The early 1970s were a time of confusion and transition in the world, bringing the hope, perhaps the expectation, of a new future where the cobwebs of the past would be brushed away. This context fits well with the theme of When the Sun Shines, which recounts how the West found an opportunity to discover what Prabhupada had to offer.”
At 496 pages, When the Sun Shines offers plenty to get lost in. And it’s an attractive package, with 108 photos and a hand-drawn map depicting important sites of Srila Prabhupada’s activities in London.
Danish science writer Lalitanatha Dasa’s new book has been long delayed (it was originally to be released on the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth in February 2009). But when it does appear early this year, Rethinking Darwin: A Vedic Study of Darwinism and Intelligent Design should still make quite a splash.
Charles Darwin, of course, always makes for controversial subject matter. For more than a century, his theory of evolution has been the theoretical framework—the paradigm—in mainstream biology and related life-sciences. So when it is challenged, sparks tend to fly.
Over the past few decades, great advances in biochemistry have created an Intelligent Design opposition which maintains that the theory of evolution is beset with anomalies. For Rethinking Darwin, Lalitanatha Dasa has collaborated with some of Intelligent Design’s leading proponents such as Dr. Michael Behe, Dr. William Dembski, and Dr. Jonathan Wells, to point out the ï¬‚aws in the Darwinian paradigm and examine the case for intelligent design.
The argument for design is next expanded with further evidence from archeology, cosmology, and studies of consciousness. Finally, based on the irreducible nature of consciousness, the book suggests an alternative paradigm drawn from the Vedic texts of ancient India.
With new illustrations by Origins magazine artist Rama-prasada Dasa and others, this softback publication should grab the intellect of its intended general public audience.
Both VEDA and When the Sun Shines are now available at Krishna.com, krishnaculture.com, blservices.com, and Amazon.com. Rethinking Darwin will appear through the same channels when it is released early this year.
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